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Head barista at Guat’s Up! in Bury St Edmunds Josh Boughton to tell us about the development of our coffee-drinking culture

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For years now the specialty coffee industry has been talking about the ‘third wave’. This term is used to define certain periods in coffee-drinking culture, but interestingly only starts in the 1960s.

The Sixties are well documented as the beginning of coffee’s global popularity with consumption seeing some big increases in demand. But as demand began to outstrip supply there was an increase in intensive farming and cheap labour and one might say the 1970s early ’80s was the Dark Ages of coffee – from this era Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic and other certifications are born.

The ‘second wave’ is said to be the increase in high street chains, like Starbucks, which provided ease of access and the other generic standards a high street brand provides.

Mmm, coffee (9392985)
Mmm, coffee (9392985)

The ‘third wave’ relates to the drive towards direct trade, with coffee producing countries, higher quality coffee and better crafted drinks, this wave began mid double zeros (2000-2010).

Having been involved with coffee for a number of decades and heavily involved with coffee and equipment for cafés since 2006, I definitely witnessed with my own eyes, changes in café culture in the UK, which really began gathering momentum in 2011. Cup sizes began to become smaller as baristas worked out the coffees tasted superior and it wasn’t necessarily about the amount of milk in a coffee, but the ratio of coffee to milk that made the flavour.

At this time, an influx of coffee businesses from Australia and New Zealand began, seasoned Artisan coffee enthusiasts, setting up in London to fill the huge void that had been created. The word of specialty coffee was spreading and mostly thanks to the internet and social media platforms, which were growing fast at this time.

Fast forward a few years and we are now seeing that Norwich and Cambridge have caught up with London in terms of the availability and choice of quality independent coffee shops – Ipswich has had Applaud for more than five years and Colchester is now beginning to see growth in the quality sector.

What will the ‘fourth wave’ bring? Right now espresso-based milk drinks still dominate the market, cappuccinos, lattes and flat whites. Personally, I’d like to see a more manual brew, black coffee-focused market that really showcases the uniqueness of the coffees brewed.

Butterworth & Son coffee roasters and tea smiths, based on Moreton Hall, and Guat’s Up! café in Guildhall Street.